PayPal’s logo, left, and Pandora’s logo, right.
(Court documents)

In the increasingly crowded music-streaming market, Pandora is being pushed ever further into the margins. Once a pioneer among apps that recommend music, the company has struggled to keep pace as rivals such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube Music have come on the scene.

So last fall, as part of a broader rebranding effort, Pandora ditched its old logo in favor of a more modern mark. Gone was the icon that had hardly changed since the company’s founding in 2000, replaced by a sleek blue uppercase “P.”

PayPal, which has used a blue “P” icon for several years, wasn’t having it.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court, PayPal accused Pandora of deliberately ripping off its logo to piggyback on its success as an online money transfer service.

The complaint ridicules Pandora’s business model, saying that Pandora sought to dupe users into confusing the two:

Pandora launched the Pandora Logo as part of an effort to overcome serious commercial challenges that threaten its very survival. As a streaming music service known mostly for its free-to-consumers version, Pandora has no obvious path to profitability. It also faces overwhelming competition from Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and other successful streaming platforms. It was against this backdrop that Pandora deserted its long-standing logo and latched itself on to the increasingly popular PayPal Logo as part of its efforts to catch up to its competition.

The lawsuit accuses Pandora of trademark infringement and seeks a court order forcing Pandora to stop using the new logo.

A Pandora spokesperson told Gizmodo: “We have no further comment on the matter while this suit is pending.”

PayPal said it put a lot of work into designing a unique logo to “stand out on the crowded screens of customers’ smartphones and tablets.” Pandora’s logo, adopted in October 2016, “openly mimics” the PayPal logo, the lawsuit alleges. The complaint points to what PayPal calls striking similarities between the two, including the block-style capital P, the blue color and the overall minimalist look.

Customers have taken note, PayPal says. The complaint highlights several tweets from users who say they’ve gotten the two apps confused because of the similarities in the logos (“Did PayPal buy Pandora,” one person tweeted last fall). As a result, the lawsuit alleges, PayPal’s brand has become blurred.

“This blatantly pirates the goodwill developed by PayPal in the PayPal Logo,” the lawsuit says.

PayPal said it raised its concerns with Pandora privately before filing the lawsuit.

Several of the tech industry’s biggest players use shades of blue in their logos — a trend that prompted one designer to start tracking color palettes of the world’s most popular websites.

For PayPal, the color scheme was one of multiple elements carefully considered during the creation of the logo, as the lawsuit explains:

The counters in the Ps were closed to achieve a more compact form that is easier to read. The color was chosen to infuse energy into the logo and to portray confidence and vitality, while harmonizing with PayPal’s long-standing color scheme. The simple yet sharp geometric pattern was chosen to symbolize technology. The subtle shading between the tiles creates depth and dimension to show security. The italic angle conveys forward motion, innovation, and progress.

For a long time, Pandora used a blue capital “P” with the company’s name spelled below in a serifed font.

When it introduced the simplified logo in the fall, it billed the change as a new phase in its evolution as a streaming music provider.

“Our dynamic brand is composed of form, color and pattern,” Pandora wrote on its blog, “which we implemented into the new P icon and serves as your portal into the unique and diverse range of music you love.”

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